It’s Not the Same, as Notre Dame

In Prose by nativesinamericaLeave a Comment

By Justin Susan

I never knew much about the big controversial debate over the Washington Redskin’s name. As I grew older, I started to hear different point of views from all sorts of people. I listened to ideologies from Redskin fans and from Native Americans fighting to change the name. All interesting opinions and one thing I always try to do as a young student is to always listen to other peoples’ opinions. Not only listen, but to actually visualize their point of view. After thinking through all the clutter, I came to my own conclusion. The Washington Redskins name needs to be changed and here is why…

The Washington Redskins were originally founded in 1932 and are one of the six oldest teams in the National Football League. The Redskins won titles in 1937 and in 1942. They won Super Bowl XVII, XXII, and XXVI. In short, the Washington Redskins are a historic pinpoint and have been a good foundation for the NFL.

In 2017, the Supreme court ruled in favor of the name. The justices rule the law barring disparaging terms infringes free speech rights. The Washington Redskins have the right to keep their name, but that doesn’t mean keeping the name is right.

I understand what comes with changing the name. People might suggest where does it end? Does every name offend people? Should the Cowboys or Patriots name need to be changed too?

Or

Some might suggest. We are honoring you!

Or

What about the Notre Dame Irish? It’s basically the same thing and I don’t hear Irish people trying to change the name?

Or

It’s a tradition we can’t just change it.

Indeed, some of these reasons may be valid to others. But allow me to explain why these aren’t valid reasons. I would suggest that most Washington Redskin fans are naïve and innocent because I’m sure a majority don’t even know the actual definition of the word Redskin. The fans who stick behind their team’s name don’t actually know what the term Redskin means or where it comes from. Therefore, these fans are uneducated or misinformed and consequently innocent. To briefly define what the offensive term is: it comes from when Europeans put bounties on Native Americans. After they had killed Native Americans for money and put the dead bodies into a pile, they would look at the red blood covering the bodies and call them Peaux Rouges, a French word that translates to Redskin.

This brief summary extinguishes the comparison to the Notre Dame Irish. The Notre Dame Irish is an actual ethnicity. If you walk on the streets of Ireland and ask someone what race they are, some will say they’re full blood Irish. If you walk on the roads of a reservation and ask someone what tribe they’re from I doubt you will hear, “I’m full blood Redskin.” It just doesn’t work because the term Redskin is an offensive term. It’s not an ethnicity. There is no tribe called Redskin. You can walk into a bar in Ireland and say to someone “Hey! You’re an Irish man!” They’ll probably chuckle or nod their head. I can’t imagine a white guy walking into a bar on the reservation and saying “Hey! You’re a Redskin!” It will be very offensive and awkward. If the name of a NFL team can’t be used in public freely then why should the name be appropriate for an NFL team? Now, if the Notre Dame Irish were using an offensive term then it would be the same as the Washington Redskins. But they aren’t. Same goes for the Patriots and Cowboys. Those aren’t offensive names. The Redskin’s name is offensive to native people.

An important reason why the name hasn’t been changed is because the Native American represent only 1% of the U.S. population and are sovereign federal governments which makes it difficult for the people to be fully united. Some people are uneducated as well about the term. I think that’s important. To spread awareness of the term and what Redskin actually means. I believe most people look at this debate and shrug their shoulders. Some people don’t care about this topic which is frustrating. I am full blood Native American. I come form the White Mountain Apache tribe in Arizona. We deserve to be respected and the term Redskin isn’t respectful.  I’m not being sensitive. I’m standing up for what I think is right now and for generations of Native Americans to come.  We don’t look like the Redskin logo, yes we hold our traditional ceremonies and beliefs handed down from our ancestors, but we are not extinct, we are educated as lawyers, medical doctors and contribute to making a difference in this country.

Not to compare apples to oranges, but Native Americans don’t have a strong voice in America. We just don’t. Compared to African American communities and Hispanic communities we aren’t as effective due to our small populations. If the Washington Redskins were named after an offensive term towards either the Black community or Hispanics, then the name would have been changed decades ago. Not to say we aren’t powerful or that we should be given sympathy. However, it’s a statement that I believe to be true about our voice.

Please…Please…Please stop it with the “We are honoring you.” If you really wanted to honor us they’d give us our land back and they would have changed the name a long time ago. There is nothing honorable about being called a Redskin. There is nothing honorable about making a profit off our dead ancestors. There is nothing honorable about being stubborn and not changing the name when it clearly offends Native Americans. I understand tradition, I do. I have my own tradition with my own family. However, tradition can be changed. That’s what makes the world a better place, that we can change. Changing the name of the Washington Redskins wouldn’t be an atrocious consequence. It would show that you respect us. In return I’m sure the Washington Redskin would also receive a multiple amounts of new fans, great marketing, and they would have done something great.

Maybe…I myself am being naïve. Daniel Snyder, the owner, might say it’s not that easy Justin Susan. I’m sure there would be multiple amounts of paper work, mountains of complaints, and a long process of work. I’m not asking for the Washington Redskins to change locations or to change the color scheme. I’m simply asking to change the name. The world has changed since 1932 Mr. Snyder. I think the Redskins should too.

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